AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team is at is best when it pushes tempo.
The Cyclones move the ball better, get more open looks from 3-point range and get better looks at the rim.
And tempo will be a key tonight when Iowa State (9-5, 0-3 Big 12) visits Kansas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12).
It starts at the defensive end. Kansas has the third-best scoring offense in the Big 12 at 87 points per game. If Iowa State can’t get stops and control defensive rebounds, it won’t be able to push the ball in transition.
“The one thing you have to do when you go into Allen Fieldhouse is you have to compete like crazy,” coach Steve Prohm said. “Forget all schemes. That’s the No. 1 thing on the scouting report — we have to compete. We have to get stops so we can play at a fast pace. This is a great challenge. I look forward to see how we respond.”
While the Cyclones have had many struggles early in the conference season, their guards have had success rebounding the ball. Nick Weiler-Babb is averaging a team-best 7.6 rebounds and Lindell Wigginton is averaging 4.7 rebounds.
The Jayhawks’ only true post rebounding threat is Udoka Azubuike on the offensive glass, who’s averaging 2.7 per game. If the Cyclones can keep him at bay, they should be able to run in transition off of misses.
“(Guard rebounding) is definitely a big factor,” Weiler-Babb said. “Me and Lindell have been two of the leading rebounders on our team. Whenever he gets the ball, he pushes it and whenever I get the ball, I push it. Guard rebounding is always a big thing in transition and it’s been big for us.”
The reason Iowa State’s offense works so well in transition is because it has multiple threats. Wigginton can get to the rim, Donovan Jackson can spot up and hit a 3-pointer and post player Cameron Lard is adept at running the floor and finishing in transition at the rim.
“(With) the great (point guards), and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach some good ones, it’s one dribble and (the ball) is flying up that sideline,” Prohm said. “They may get it coming back to them, but that first one is going up sidelines. When we attack with Donovan right there, that’s our best chance of getting him a shot. When we get it ahead to Lindell right there, he’s got a broken defense to go make a play.
“We don’t need to slow it down and think, ‘Ok, what are we going to run for Donovan in the half-court.’ He’s second in the league games with 24 points, but watch those games and see — you’ll see a different pace. What’s frustrating right now is the margin for error is (so small). And we have to know that and play that way.”
Iowa State is 0-3 in conference, but that includes two overtime games where the Cyclones were one stop or one made basket away from winning.
“There is no bottom,” Prohm said. “We’re 0-3, but we’re going to become a good basketball team, there’s no doubt in my mind.”